Four Principles of Influence

From the Career Conversations Series with Jean, Founder of Exaltitude
November 30, 2021
Guest profile photo

​Influence is something that always comes up when we're discussing pain points or challenges as an engineer. The more senior you become, the more cross-functional collaboration becomes crucial. In order to be a successful leader, you need to master the skill of persuading people to help you make changes, implement key decisions, and move forward. As part of an EXA Career Conversations series, “Principles of Influence,” Exaltitude Founders Jean discussed the different ways to have influence as engineers.

EXA Newsletter

Why reinvent the wheel?

Exaltitude newsletter is packed with advice for navigating your engineering career journey successfully. Sign up to stay tuned!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

What are the four ways to have influence? 

  1. Be an expert in a subject matter. You’re so damn good that everyone will listen to you. 
  2. Build long-lasting relationships with people -- you have a brand recognition or reputation. 
  3. Offer incentives to people -- money, gifts, jobs, etc.
  4. Deeply connect with people on a human level and move them with empathy and understanding. 

Most influential people mix and match the four types. 

Think of an influential figure. 

Is this someone you think of when you think of Influence?

For most people, Mark Zuckerberg is probably not the first person you’d think of in terms of an influential figure. Why is that?

Well, he is a subject matter expert. Most people would agree he's very smart. He does have a reputation -- as a being a robot. He lacks the ability to connect with people. 

We can also looking some fictional characters - the Lannisters.

Anybody a Game of Thrones fan? 

Lannister family is very powerful and they have resources. They have a reputation. They have long-lasting relationships with other powerful families. They're experts at the subject matter of wars. They're also good at providing incentives -- money, title, or land. They're good at understanding what the other person needs and offering it to them. 

Here is another example - Oprah Winfrey!

She has INFLUENCE. For example, if she recommends a book, it instantly becomes a best seller. She has a reputation and recognition as Oprah! She has built many relationships with famous and influential people over the years.

She's also really good at providing incentives -- “you get an iPad, you get an iPad, you get an iPad!”

But her real superpower is in connecting with people. She will invite a guest over to go deep in conversation. She will laugh with you and cry with you. She deeply connects with the audience. Oprah a master of all four ways or influence and she’s able to mix and match them at any given moment. 

How do we become more like Oprah? 

It will take some time become a subject matter expert. If you are an engineer, you can build up your skill and knowledge in engineering. I’m not going to go into details of engineering excellence in this article. 

You can invest time in building relationships or gain resources so you can offer more incentives. Even if you don't have a lot of resources or reputation, anyone can make an effort to connect with people. 

Connecting with people. 

Let’s think about different ways to connect with people. This is also the first step to building long-lasting relationships.

Are you likable?

It’d be difficult to have influence over someone who hates your guts. 

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie is one of my favorite books on influence. 

He has a chapter on how to be likable. 

Six ways to become a people magnet.

There are the recommendations from Dale Carnegie.

1. Be genuinely interested in other people. Don't fake it because people can tell if you're faking it.

2. Smile. 

3. Remember their names. People love hearing their names, and it makes them feel important/valued. 

4. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

6. Be a good listener.

By asking great questions, and actually listening to them, you will also make other people feel like you're genuinely interested in them. Try to find out what others are interested in. This will also help in providing incentives for them.

Providing Incentives

Many experts talk about using incentives. 

Dale Carnegie says,

“Appeal to the nobler motives.” 

In another book, Crucial Conversations, Kerry Patterson says,

“Find a mutual purpose.” 

I was recently traveling, and I was talking to a captain of a cruise ship. I told her I’m working on a talk with the topic of influence, and asked her, “how do you influence your staff to work with you?” 

She said,

“Safety is a big concern for me. I like to ask my staff, do you like your finger? Well, if you like your finger, let's talk about how we can keep your finger on by following these safety protocols.”

What would be the equivalent to “keeping a finger” in your relationship with the person you’re trying to influence? Think of mutual benefits.

You want a promotion:

❌ Because I deserve it.

✅ One of the company's goals is employee retention. Communicating promotion decisions transparently is good for employee retention.

You want influence over a project direction:

❌ Because this is right.

✅ The new project direction would benefit the team or the users and these are the 3 facts to support that.

In other words, why should the other person give a damn? 

Influence, like any skill, takes time to develop. Next time you need to practice having influence, think of the four principles - Become an expert in a subject matter, build long-lasting relationships, offer incentives, and deeply connect with people on a human level.

Did you like the article?

Download the Influence checklist - a one page summary of the Principles of Influence talk. 

Also check out, “Five Questions to Ask to Have Influence”.

Exaltitude newsletter is packed with advice for navigating your engineering career journey successfully. Sign up to stay tuned!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Read the latest...

Copyright @Exaltitude